Crusaders sweating over Read
Crusaders sweating over ReadSHARE
The Crusaders will meet the Lions in the grand finale at Ellis Park this coming Saturday, after beating the Chiefs 27-13 in the semifinal in Christchurch at the weekend.
The Crusaders headed to Johannesburg on Sunday with Read and All Black tighthead prop Owen Franks on the team roster – despite both suffering injuries in their semifinal victory.
Read suffered a knee strain and Franks has an Achilles tendon complaint.
Should the two be declared fit for the Final, Robertson could have as many as 10 internationals in their matchday squad at Ellis Park.
The Crusaders coach has some 'insurance' on the flight to South Africa, with Mike Alaalatoa – who came on as a half-time replacement for Franks – to start and Oli Jager travelling as additional front row cover.
Sam Whitelock, who replaced Read as franchise captain this year, has done an admirable job as skipper of the team.
"He is relentless in his work ethic, uncompromising and really clear with the boys and what he wants off the field," Robertson said in reference to Whitelock.
"Most importantly, he plays well every week."
Robertson has already started strategizing on how to beat the Lions at Ellis Park, where the South African champions have not lost a match in a record 15 outings.
Their last defeat at home was in April last year, when the Hurricanes smashed them 50-17 – a defeat they avenged at the weekend with a comprehensive 44-29 victory on the semifinal.
The longest Super Rugby winning streak is held by the Crusaders, who won 16 consecutive matches in 2005 and 2006. The Crusaders also won a record 26 matches at home from Round Six in 2004 to Round 12 in 2007.
"We have got to look at ourselves first," Robertson said.
"They [the Chiefs] had a great game plan to hold the ball for long periods of time, and we probably can't do that again next week against another team for that period of time.
"We have to be better around our game plan."
Robertson, having watched openside flank Matt Todd lead the defence by making a brain-blistering 22 tackles, simply cannot afford to allow his men to get sucked into such a war of attrition against the Lions.
If the Crusaders are again forced to make in excess of 200 tackles, they will simply run out of gas in Johannesburg's rarified air.
Getting the kicking game right at Ellis Park will also be a priority.
"We have kind of got our eyes are on the next job already," midfielder Ryan Crotty said.
"The boys are pretty proud, it was a massive effort. We have played two of the best teams in the comp in the last two weeks and they have not been easy games by any stretch of the imagination."